Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Monday, June 18, 2018

Depriving the Deer

(Margo D. Beller)
"Ouch! You're hurting me!" That's what I imagine the apple tree is telling me this morning. I am using my lopper to take off its low-hanging branches. This morning the house wrens were practically screaming in their alarm. When I turned from my seat on the porch to see why there was a doe, likely the one who has been doing the nibbling I've found around the yard, looking at me. 

I had not heard the doe approach as I tried to shake the early-rising fog from my head. But I sure heard the wrens.

I knew what I had to do next: put on lightweight and light colored clothes because of the expected summer heat, get the lopper and bring out two large baskets - one for the branches, one for the apples I'd be stripping off. But it is not a matter of just whacking away haphazardly. Like the woman who no doubt will be cutting back my long hair this week to make it short for the hot summer weather we're finally getting, you have to do things with style and make what's left look pretty, as though it had always been that way.

House wren (Margo D. Beller)
I had another consideration - the wrens. When MH had mowed the lawn last week Papa Wren actually went after him, his wings fluttering practically next to MH's ear when he mowed close to the tree, he said. He added that he had seen a doe - a pregnant doe - in the next yard. She was as perturbed by the noisy thing he was pushing as the wrens and so was taking a detour around my yard. I don't know if this was the same doe I have shooed out of the hedges over the last few weeks or the one I found this morning at the apple tree but I do know that unlike in some previous years, no fawns were dropped on my property.

The branches I cut were dumped from the basket into my fenced compost pile until the leaves turn brown and unappetizing, which should be in time for me to put them at the curb with other brush to be picked up.

Some may think me cruel for wanting to deprive the deer. It is not their fault my yard or those of the other houses in the sprawling New Jersey suburbs are set up perfectly in small patches with a variety of bite-size plants to try, or that the deer's nonhuman predators, such as the eastern coyote, are not encouraged to hang around. I have a friend who, unlike me, leaves feeders out for the birds all year long, and she goes all dewy-eyed when she sees a doe feeding on someone else's shrubs. Of course, she keeps the plants she cares about in pots on her deck, high above where any deer can get to them.

I've often said that had I known back in the mid-1990s what I know now, most of the plants I currently grow would never have been put in. I have become an expert on "deer-resistant" plants - a real growth industry - and deer fencing to protect the plants I now know deer will destroy.

One of last year's apples (Margo D. Beller)
Besides, there will be more than enough apples for the deer and me and even the squirrels that have already started going into the tree for a sweet, wet treat on a hot summer day. These critters climb much higher than I can get without an extension pole, and they drop lots of whole or partially eaten fruit. The apples I picked today are not quite big or ripe enough for pie and will need a lot of sugar (or mixing with other fruit) for anything else I make with them. I had hoped for more time before the morning "rush hour" ritual of grabbing apples before the deer get to them. But this year has been a wacky one in terms of climate and so this is par for the course. 

Meanwhile, there are cheeping young in the wren box, so small that both parents went in to feed them at the same time at one point while I worked. The adults weren't pleased by my being so close to the nest but they seem to be used to me and when I cut branches near the box it was only after they had fed the young and flown off for more food. I doubt wrens know the concept of "trust" but they somehow know I will not injure the next.

And as an added benefit or removing the lower branches, I have a better view of this year's wren show. It never gets old.

No comments:

Post a Comment